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Illinois sees rising COVID activity

A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.
Photo Illustration By Max Posner
A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.

While hospital admissions remain low, there is concern COVID-19 is on the rise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting all 102 Illinois counties remained at a low level for COVID-19 hospital admissions as of the middle of August, though wastewater surveillance is detecting increasing Covid-19 activity.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is continuing to watch COVID-19 data and also monitoring other respiratory viruses, particularly flu and RSV, ahead of the fall and winter seasons.

“Although hospitalization rates and deaths from COVID-19 remain low, it is important for our residents to know that we are seeing rising COVID-19 activity across Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “We are fortunate the vast majority of Illinoisians have received immunity from a COVID-19 vaccine or previous infection that protects them against severe disease. However, COVID-19 continues to pose a risk for our seniors, individuals with chronic medical conditions, and those who are immunocompromised.

"IDPH is closely monitoring COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, emerging variants, and a broad range of respiratory illnesses including flu and RSV. As we approach the fall, our residents will have access to a number of tools, including updated shots and treatments, that can help us avoid another ‘tripledemic.’ Please contact your primary care provider to learn about the options available to protect you and your loved ones this upcoming respiratory season,” he said.

Vohra said that the Illinois Wastewater Surveillance System is indicating moderate COVID activity across all sampling regions in Illinois. The system is designed to monitor for levels of COVID-19, flu and RSV viruses in wastewater at 79 locations across Illinois. Flu and RSV activity remain low in the wastewater across all regions.

This comes as as a new variant, BA.2.86 has been found in samples from Denmark and Israel. The CDC said at least two cases have been identified in the U.S. This variant is notable because it has multiple genetic differences from previous versions of SARS-CoV-2, according to the CDC.

NPR reported there are 35 mutations on the spike protein compared to currently circulating variants. That's as big of a difference as there was between the original virus and the omicron variant identified in November 2021.

With the U.S. marking National Immunization Awareness Month in August, IDPH encourages Illinoisans to follow recommendations from public health authorities on COVID-19 and the flu as well as the recently authorized RSV vaccine for adults who are 60 and older and more vulnerable to severe illness. Federal authorities have also approved a new preventive medication for RSV for all children up to 8 months and for some high-risk children older than 8 months.

The CDC is expected to issue guidance in September about the newly developed COVID-19 boosters for fall.

Illinois has more than 200,000 courses of effective therapeutic medications, including Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, available through providers and pharmacies that will continue to be provided free of charge until supplies run out.

In addition, the CDC this summer launched the Bridge Access Program that will cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for uninsured and underinsured adults this fall. This program will also cover the new annual Covid-19 shot when it is rolled out this fall. In addition, Illinoisans who experience Covid-19 symptoms can access no cost-share telehealth services through the SIU School of Medicine Covid Test to Treat services or call 217-545-5100.

Additional resources and COVID-19 data can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19.html.

The federal government has established a website that provides an all-purpose toolkit with information on how to obtain masks, treatment, vaccines and testing resources for all areas of the country at: https://www.covid.gov/.

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